A number of minor violations of the Municipal Elections Act were confirmed by the Election Compliance Audit Committee, but none rise to the level that would warrant a full compliance audit. That was the committee’s ruling on a total of 7 audit requests filed against members of Hamilton City Council by Stoney Creek resident Vivian Saunders. In six of the seven claims filed by Saunders specific allegations were dismissed as “speculative and is not supported by substantive evidence.” In all Saunders had filed allegations against Councillors Robert Pasuta, Lloyd Ferguson, Terry Whitehead, Tom Jackson, Chad Collins, Sam Merulla and Maria Pearson.
In the case of Pearson, Saunders opposed some development projects supported by Pearson, including taking one 6-unit townhome project all the way to the OMB in an unsuccessful attempt to block it. She also filed a complaint against Pearson to the integrity Commissioner. Pearson says the Integrity Commissioner billed the city for $19,000 for the investigation that was settled this spring with a finding of no wrongdoing on the part of the councillor. When she filed notice of her charges against the councillors with local media outlets Saunders requested anonymity, and initially berated local media for not publishing her charges against the councillors, stating that only one media outlet had carried the original charges—that one media outlet being the Hamiltonian, edited by Teresa DiFalco who ran against Pearson in the 2014 municipal election. In response to a question from the Bay Observer Saunders denied having supported Di Falco or any candidate in the last election.
Di Falco herself became the subject to a compliance audit request submitted by John Makkai. Ultimately the committee found that there were some misreported items that were in contravention of the Act, but ruled a compliance audit was not warranted.
The committee rulings appeared to sanction gifts given to campaign workers at post-election victory celebrations.. In the case of councillor Tom Jackson he had distributed gift cards with a cash face value at a post-election bash. He argued that he had done so in previous elections with no complaint. The committee did not deal specifically with the gift issue but ruled there was no evidence that his overall post-election expenses were excessive.
Not so lucky were defeated candidates Toby Yull in Dundas and Ward 1 candidate Ira Rosen, both of whom have been prohibited from running for municipal office in 2018 for failure to file campaign audits. Both Candidates had spent more than $10,000 on their campaigns which required an outside audit. The complaints against them were filed by Joanna Chapman.Tony Fallis, manager of elections/print and mail said the penalty is required under the Municipal Elections Act.
For her part Saunders will continue to pursue her campaign audit quest in the Ontario Court of Justice.